What to Do When Your Application Is Rejected
You did the research. You found the grant that would fund your project. You wrote a passionate, clear, precise, and thorough grant application. You submitted all the necessary documents and everything arrived at the funder on time. Yet you received a letter regretting to inform you that your application was rejected. It is natural to wonder what went wrong and how to proceed when faced with a rejection.
First, know that you are not alone. A large number of grant writers have their first proposal rejected. Try not to regard this initial rejection as a sign that you don’t have what it takes. Instead, try to view the rejection as constructive feedback and an opportunity to learn how to become better by honing in on the features of a grant proposal that are important.
Listen to Feedback
The first step to consider when facing rejection is to call the foundation. You cannot write a better proposal in the future if you do not know why your application was declined. Even though there is a slight chance that the only answer you will get is, “it did not fit without our priorities,” it is more likely that you will get specific feedback. There may have been a general error in the proposal, the budget, leadership, or collaboration requirements—or possibly a feature you were unaware of.
Another advantage of calling the funder is the opportunity to ask whether you can resubmit an application for the next cycle and if they have any advice on what you could do better next time. This not only allows you to map out your next application, it also shows the funder that you are interested in working with them and willing to meet their requirements. You may also want to ask if the funder offers a review of proposals prior to submission.
Develop a Relationship With Your Contact
Even if the organization does not offer an informal review of your next application, ask your contact whether you could get back to them for advice in the future. You are most likely talking to a program officer who knows the specifics of the program that you want to apply to, the inner workings of the organization, and the nonprofit sector in general. This is knowledge that might prove to be invaluable to you.
Review the Requirements
It is helpful to go back to the funding organization’s program guidelines and priority areas. Does the program really fit your needs? Was this indeed the right grant for you? Sometimes you may realize after comparing your proposal and the funder’s guidelines that your objectives and their interests may not be the best match.
Ask for Help
It is true that there is not just power but also knowledge in numbers. Find an online community of other educators who are applying or who have applied for grants. Read their accounts and see if you can find similarities or advice. Perhaps contact some of them to foster a discussion or ask for guidance. Check out blogs about how to write grant applications for various topics, such as government grants or grant writing for beginners.
Lastly, always remember to be courteous when calling a foundation or organization. Thank the person on the other end of the line for their time and for their honest and open feedback. It will pay off in the future to have a contact at a foundation or funding organization that will remember you in a positive light.
And finally, apply again.